Israel Carries Out Gaza Airstrikes After Incendiary Balloons Launched

There are no reports of casualties after the first major flare-up since a ceasefire ended 11 days of fighting last month.
June 16, 2021, 9:53am
Israel Carries Out Gaza Air Strikes After Incendiary Balloons Launched
Masked Palestinian supporters of the Al-Nasir Salah Al-Din Brigades prepare incendiary balloons east of Gaza City, to launch across the border fence towards Israel, on Tuesday the 14th of June. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israel has carried out air strikes against Hamas military targets in Gaza after incendiary balloons were launched into Israeli territory.

This represents the first major violent exchange between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of fighting last month. It is also the first flare-up since a new coalition government came to power this weekend, led by Naftali Bennett, who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister.

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Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said they had struck military compounds in Gaza City and Khan Younis. It came after incendiary balloons were launched from Gaza in the early hours of the morning, causing fires in Israel. There are no reports of any casualties from either the balloons or the air strikes.

The launch of the incendiary balloons came after far-right Israeli ultra-nationalists held a controversial march in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

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The Jerusalem Day flag march marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, but the march was delayed due to last month’s conflict. The new coalition government approved the march with a new route. Prior to the march, Israeli police cleared the route of Palestinian protesters, firing stun grenades and injuring at least 27 people.

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A view from a site hit by Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Videos posted online showed some of the marchers, mostly young men, chanting “death to the Arabs”. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid – who, under a deal with Bennett, will become Prime Minister in 2023 – condemned the footage.

Ultra-nationalists and pro-settler groups demonstrate near the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Ultra-nationalists and pro-settler groups demonstrate near the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

“The fact that there are extremist elements for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable,” he wrote on Twitter in Hebrew.

“It is inconceivable how one can hold the Israeli flag in one hand and shout ‘Death to the Arabs’ at the same time.”

At least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in last month’s conflict. In Israel, at least 12 people were killed, including two children.